What up Friar fans?!
In anticipation for tonight’s game against the Red Storm I got to swap some questions, give some answers, and share a few laughs with the good folk over at Rumble in the Garden. I asked about all the players we missed out on (DAMN YOU ST. JOHN’S!), what’s up with their season, and talk about who we would appoint if we could name any fictional character to be commissioner of the new Big East. So click that little link right underneath here to see what they have to say, and read my answers to their questions here!
Good day to you fellow Catholic 7 (now officially with 100% more Big East name than before) brethren! Thanks for doing this interview.
1. You guy stand at 16-11 and 8-7 in conference. You’ve had solid wins and some bad losses (San Francisco? You know they’re a bunch of hipsters right?) Summarize your season so far in terms of expectations – do you feel your team has met, exceeded, or fallen short?
In the moment, it feels like the Johnnies have fallen short – so many developments didn’t happen with the talented young core, a couple of seemingly-avoidable losses occurred, and the team struggles with what some think of as basic execution.
But before the season, a shot at .500 in the conference and 16-18 wins was a VERY reasonable prediction. I think KenPom had St. John’s at something like 15-15, I and other writers had them just over .500. Being this close to 20 wins, to the NCAA Tournament feels like falling short, but given the deficiencies on this team – many of which are still there from last season – I think this is around what I would have expected.
2. JaKarr Sampson could very well be the Rookie of the Year in the Big East – currently leading the team in both scoring (14.7 ppg) and rebounding (6.6 rpg). What’s been the keys to his success, and how do you shut him down?
The keys to JaKarr’s success is his length, really. Sampson is long enough to take mid-range jump shots on the college level
without having his shot bothered, and is fast enough to get to his spot in transition without a defender hounding him. His length allows him to get up for the rebounds. The other key to his success would be the percentage of the team’s shots he takes. He, Phil Greene, and D`Angelo Harrison are the main offensive shot-takers; he’s taken 30% of the team’s shots while on the floor in Big East play. Recently he’s shot better from his spots around the free throw line.
Shutting him down requires a bit of length, a bit of confusion, and keeping him from getting to the basket. He’s been less reluctant to drive recently, which makes Jakarr a more dangerous player. Keeping him in the mid-range – simply by having a competent defender at the rim – tends to work. As for the mid-range shots, if you can make him stop to decide whether he is open or not, that bit of hesitation alters his shot (Georgetown did it in both games). He’s going to get his points, but he can be made to work hard for them.
3. Speaking of freshman, talk to me about Chris Obekpa’s blocking. He has 111 for the season, which is more than the rest of the team combined. Seriously, you remember Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey 98 for N64, when the goalie would turn into a brick wall temporarily? That’s how I picture Obekpa. That said though, he hasn’t contributed much else – is this a “take the good with the bad” type situation, or is there resentment that the big man can’t do much else?
Obekpa has been less of a shot blocker in Big East play and learning hoe to be more of a post defender. He’s still the long arm of the law (I think more NBA Jam), but he’s been working at being a better positional rebounder. He is still not a great rebounder, but he’s provided some needed help on the glass. AND the former bricklayer at the line missed one free throw in the month of February (7/8 from the line). His offense will come; he has agility and hops to make it work.
4. D`Angelo Harrison – What happened?
D`Angelo Harrison has been hot-tempered all year, not displaying the leadership that Lavin has called for. And apparently, he’s a bit combative or mouthy or something in practice. So I guess Lavin had enough of his attitude and wants him to get his mind and attitude right before next season.
If he comes back.
Harrison has had struggles scoring through the second half of non-conference season, and that might have added to the frustration for the sometimes combustible guard. To be complete with this, I will say that in media seassions where I have been and where our writers have been, Harrison has been nothing but a stand-up guy who seems to accept criticism (and is even insightful). His teammates seem to like him, which wasn’t the case with departed Nurideen Lindsey. Reports from the NY Post indicate that his family wants him to stay with Lavin and St. John’s as well.
So we’ll see.
5. SCREW FOOTBALL! We get the name, we get the early exit, we get to be best friends forever. What’s the buzz for this news from a Johnny’s perspective? Any chance you guys can help us keep MSG? And, it looks like the five will be Butler and Xavier next season, followed by Creighton, St. Louis, and Dayton. Which teams are you most excited for?
Excitement. Pure and simple. If it happens as he rumors had it happening – not a done deal, after yesterday’s Big East (old Big East) meeting, it’s an impressive start. I’m excited to watch all of the teams change and grow. I think a number of programs (Providence, St. John’s, Villanova) are primed for some good years in the near future. Creighton’s okay; Dayton is interesting; and I am excited to have a reason to go to St. Louis (I dislike the city, but spent some time there, have friends there, can probably drive to Chaifetz without a map).
6. [Fun question] It’s time to play “name the commissioner!” If you could pick one fictional character to be our conference commissioner, which one would you pick and why?
Nightcrawler of the X-Men. (Because… well, I can’t think of fictional characters and I was thinking of a character with leadership skills who often gets overlooked.)
7. Seriously though, screw football.
I like pro football. Unfortunately, I like the Jets. I don’t know if that’s football or a reality TV show.